News / South Africa / Courts
With his corruption trial due to start today, former president Jacob Zuma maybe clutching at legal straws by trying to mount a private prosecution of advocate Billy Downer, the prosecutor in his case.
This is because there is no guarantee the action will halt the main proceedings. Legal expert Mannie Witz said in South Africa, any person was entitled to request for a private prosecution if they were not satisfied with the decision of the National Prosecution Authority.
According to Witz, one would have to acquire a nole prosecui certificate from the directors of public prosecutions and it would have to be done within the three months the certificate was issued.
Witz said this was a “double edged sword” situation and the guarantee of a private prosecution action would depend on the attitude of the presiding judge. He said it could also cause more issues.
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“The trouble is if the judge decides that it’s fine to carry on with private prosecution in their time, he will also decide that it shouldn’t stop him from proceeding with his own trial,” he said.
Zuma, who had also applied for a postponement of his trial, said it was very clear the conditions for a fair trial were non-existent because the person who would soon be “accused number one” in prosecution instituted by him was allowed to prosecute him on behalf of the state.
Witz said the results were based on the aspects of discretion. He said with all the postponements which were granted, the judge might well decide in his discretion to continue with the trial as it would not impact private prosecution being done at a later stage.
However, Jacob Zuma Foundation spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi said yesterday they held the view that what was wrong in the justice system was not the system itself but the people operating within the system.
Manyi said they tried the other route and trusted the state, but it was not working, and it was clear the system was abused, and they want to fix it.
“They tweak and turn things and give all kinds of spurious interpretations of the law,” he said. “Now when we do this private prosecution, the law will give its proper meaning so that justice is not only done but it is seemed to be done.”